Thinking about what you are going to have for dinner shouldn't start at 7 PM. That's the kind of thinking that usually ends up with ordering pizza. Again.
Meal planning is one the simplest and best ways you can eat healthy and save money. But, despite it being simple and straight forward, it can feel daunting to start if you've never done it before. But here's the thing: you can totally make meal planning fit to YOUR life and once you start, you can't really mess it up. Promise.
I'm going to walk you through simple ways to get started meal planning. It's going to be fun! Really.
Step One: Assessment
Think about these things before you get started:
-What do you and your family like to eat? A key to my meal planning is I have a list of food I know everyone likes and will eat. I change this list seasonally-for example, right now in the summer we eat a lot of big salads, grill regularly, and eat tons of squash and tomatoes. In contrast, during the fall and winter, I use my slow cooker twice a week to make soups and chili. Make a list of the things you like and take from that every week.
Not sure about what to add to your list? Or maybe you're trying to change your eating habits? Look through cookbooks, websites and blogs, and Pinterest for inspiration and ideas
-Who are you cooking for? Every week is different. You might have family visiting. You might have a kid away at camp. You might be going away for a weekend. Plan for this!
-What kind of time do you have and what is your budget? There are times and seasons where things are hectic. If you have a a crazy busy week ahead, plan accordingly. (I use my slow cooker religiously during the months of April, May, and June when we have baseball three nights a week.) Try to keep meals simple most nights, especially during the week. On the weekends, I'll try new recipes and make a big meal that requires more time.
Also, consider your budget and be realistic. Make your mantra "eat healthy for less."
Step Two: Make Your Plan
It's time, Take a deep breath, You can do this!
-Check your pantry and fridge. See what you already have on hand. Go from there.
-Things You Need: Pen. Paper. Write down what you want to make each night. A good starting point: Aim to cook 4-5 meals, add in a day or two of leftovers, and a night to eat out. As you write out your meals, think about what ingredients you'll need. Make your grocery list concurrently as you make your plan.
So if you're planning grilled chicken seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika, green beans with walnuts, and a nice loaf of bread for Monday's dinner, write down all your ingredients on your grocery list: chicken, green beans, walnuts, bread, butter. Wait, do you already have butter in your fridge? Don't put it on the list! Are you running low on salt? Write that down!
And then move on to the next meal!
I write my meal plans in my bullet journal. I find it very effective to be able to go back and see what we've been eating over the past few weeks. A notebook is certainly not necessary to meal plan, but I think it's helpful.
Step Three: Shop
-There is truly only one "rule" for this part: Take your list. Shop from your list. Ignore the candy aisle (unless candy is on your list).
Step Four: Cook and Enjoy!
A Couple Tips:
-Keep your meals simple. I can't stress this enough. Keeping things simple, but delicious, is the way to make your meal planning successful.
-Meal Prep. I've talked about how much meal prep is essential to my week. If there are things you can do to help make your week easier-cut up veggies, wash fruit, marinate meat-it is super helpful to take an hour on Sunday and get it done.
There! Four steps to an easier week, healthier eating, and money saving.
Look for more posts about meal planning and food prep soon!